Comrade K.R. Gowri (Gowriamma) has become part of the political history of Kerala with her passing away at the ripe old age of 102. But, she will also find a place in the pantheon of Left leaders in the country. Because what she achieved in her long political life was something unique: a revolutionary woman who became a heroine of the working class movement.
Reared in the cradle of the working class movement of Alappuzha, she became the first outstanding woman Communist leader. She became the first woman minister in the first Communist ministry in Kerala. To her fell the responsibility of piloting the historic land reforms legislation which eventually blazed a trail of land reforms in the country. From the outset she displayed two characteristic features - a commitment to party policies and a single-minded determination to implement them, whatever the odds. The working people, whether it is the poor peasant or agricultural worker, the coir worker or toddy tapper, they all unerringly recognized her as their true champion.
In later life, sometimes, her single-mindedness got transformed into a rigid individualism which landed her in political trouble. Looking back, however, this will be seen as a minor failing in the face of her tremendous contributions.
The second important feature of her life was her unrelenting refusal to accept patriarchal values. No other woman politician of her generation did so much to break gender stereotypes. Her stand that her political convictions and ideology mattered more than her marriage to T.V. Thomas was, for her times, remarkable for its sheer audacity - a revolutionary assertion of woman’s agency. Her life and work inspired many young women to join revolutionary politics. In Kerala, where patriarchal and socially conservative views still prevail, Gowriamma’s example should spur more efforts to socially emancipate women.
(The author is PB member of CPM and former general secretary of the party)